April, 2011

Log Ship Damages Wauna Mill Dock

A LOADED LOG SHIP lost its propulsion and crashed into the Wauna Mill dock, a barge loaded with paper products, and the “transit shed,” at approximately 5:53 p.m. on Friday, April 22.

The 440-foot Susaki Wing from Panama was hauling logs downriver on the Columbia River near the Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill when it lost propulsion and, consequently, its steering.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the incident, which occurred about 12 miles west of Clatskanie.

Although there has been major damage to the mill’s barge loading facilities, no injuries to either Wauna workers or the ship’s crew have been reported.

A Coast Guard helicopter and lifeboat responded to the scene as well as the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District, the Clatsop River Patrol and other local emergency crews.

The river was closed to deep draft vessels Friday night because of debris in the water. A Coast Guard spokesperson said there was no pollution problem.

The Susaki Wing was towed to Longview where Coast Guard inspectors boarded the ship to check its main engine, steering systems and hull. The crew was also tested for drugs and alcohol.

Georgia-Pacific is continuing to assess the damage. The converting lines were temporarily shut down immediately following the incident.

Meanwhile, the paper products that had been being shipped by barged are now being trucked – increasing the Wauna Mill-related truck shipments from about 10 per day to about 100.

On Monday, State Senator Betsy Johnson pledged her assistance to help Georgia-Pacific through the permitting process necessary to rebuild the dock facilities, “get the trucks off the road, and get the mill up to full capacity.”

Ballots for May Election Go in Mail Friday

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Ballots for the May 17th special district election will be mailed out beginning this Friday, April 29.

The ballot will include the Clatskanie School District five-year local option tax operating levy, Measure 5-214, and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office four-year levy for rural law enforcement, Measure 5-210.

Additionally, numerous local special district board seats are on the ballot, including for the Clatskanie School District, Rainier School District, Knappa School District, Jewell School District, Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD), Columbia River Fire and Rescue, Mist-Birkenfeld RFPD, Westport-Wauna RFPD, Knappa-Svensen-Burnside RFPD, Clatskanie Library, Clatskanie Park and Recreation District, Port of St. Helens, Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District, Rainier Cemetery District, Wauna Water District, Clatsop County Rural Law Enforcement District, Port of Astoria, Sunset Empire Transportation District, Clatsop Community College, Clatsop Care Center Health District, and Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.

The ballots are due back by 8 p.m. on election day, Tuesday, May 17.

School District Levy

If approved by the voters, Measure 5-214 would enact a five-year local option tax for the school district which would raise an additional approximately $1,080,000 in each of the five years beginning in 2011-12 for general operations of the district.

With the state school funding budget passed by the legislature and signed last week by the Oregon governor, the Clatskanie School District is now facing a budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year of about $830,000.

The local option levy, according to the ballot summary, “taxes the gap between a property owner’s assessed and real market value. The combined total of permanent education and local option levy taxes cannot exceed the Measure 5 maximum of $5 per $1,000 of real market value.”

Because the gap between assessed and real market value varies, the cost of the local option levy is different for each property owner.

An average homeowner in the Columbia County portion of the Clatskanie School District, who has property assessed at $160,000 and a real market value of $220,000, could have a $338 annual local option tax imposed in addition to the amount they are already paying in taxes to the school district and the education service district, (a total of $4.76 per $1,000 of valuation in the permanent education rate), plus the 85 cents per $1,000 general obligation bond levy passed 10 years ago to raise $7.69 million for improvements and repairs to school district facilities. That 2001 bond authorization matures over a period not to exceed 21 years.

An average Clatsop County home owner with property assessed at $160,000 and real market value of $220,000 could have an additional $214 annual tax imposed on their property tax bills if Measure 5-214 passes.

It is emphasized that those are estimates only because the amount between assessed and real market value varies for each property.

To compute how much in additional property taxes the local option levy would cost them, Clatskanie School District voters may go to the district’s website,, or they may call the office at 503 728-0587 for assistance in computing their cost.

(See “The Trident” column on page 1 for Superintendent Ed Serra’s commentary on the ballot measure.)

Sheriff’s Stable Funding Levy

Measure 5-210 is a four-year levy which would collect an additional 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – $124 for a homeowner with an assessed value of $200,000 for each of the next four years – for Columbia County Sheriff’s Office operations.

The levy would fund an additional six patrol deputies, three investigators, two sworn supervisors, and the equipment and fuel for those added positions.

Additional services to be funded in the sheriff’s office, if the levy passes, include a support clerk, two corrections deputies and the jail mental health program.

Currently there are no investigators to solve crimes, leaving patrol deputies to perform investigations. Most “cold” property crimes cannot be investigated at all, according to Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson. There are only six deputies to cover 657 square miles. “Response times to crimes and other calls in unincorporated Columbia County is extremely long and unsafe for citizens,” Dickerson points out.

Mary Mitchell Named Interim Clatskanie Superintendent

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Longtime Clatskanie School District Special Education Director Mary Mitchell will take on the extra duty of serving as interim superintendent for the 2011-12 school year, as a result of a split decision by the school board at its meeting Monday, April 25.

With the backing of the district’s other administrators and staff, Mitchell had proposed to the board that she serve as both superintendent and special education director for the coming year shortly after Superintendent Ed Serra announced in January that he was retiring at the end of this school year.

Board members considered various other possibilities and had voted on another split decision to seek a full-time interim superintendent from outside the district. An Oregon School Boards Association consultant had provided resumés of several applicants for the job.

However, last week the board invited Mitchell to make a presentation in executive session about her plan to serve both as superintendent and special education director for the next school year, giving the board more time to settle the question of what to do permanently about the superintendent’s position, and saving the cost of hiring a full-time interim.

At the April 25th meeting, director Dave True moved, with director Karen George seconding, to appoint Mitchell as interim superintendent, continuing as special education director, with Serra negotiating a separate extra-duty contract. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote with directors Michael Moravec and Stuart Haas voting no.

Moravec explained that he was not in favor of the motion based on the fact that the board had not had the opportunity to interview any other applicants.

Later, during the board comments portion of the meeting, Moravec told Mitchell, “I am willing to support you 100 percent. I have nothing against your candidacy. It was just the procedure. I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming year.”

Meal Price Increase

In a move aimed at beginning to address the deficit in the school meal program, the board passed a recommendation from food services director Roxane Wilcoxen to raise student prices by five cents and adult prices by slightly higher margins.

The new prices will go into effect Monday, May 2. Clatskanie Elementary School students will now pay $1.20 for brekfast, $1.95 for lunch and 50 cents for extra milk.

Clatskanie Middle/High School students will now pay $1.30 for breakfast, $2.45 for lunch and 50 cents for extra milk.

Another price increase is expected to be put in effect for the next school year.

While Superintendent Serra’s budget proposal presented April 11 suggested eliminating the lunch program at CMHS and reducing food service positions by 2.19 full-time equivalent, the food service staff is working to reduce the $57,000 transfer from the general fund that was required in the current year.

Finance manager Janine Salisbury noted that they are also working with Rainier School District nutritionist Debby Webster to make improvements and savings in the program, but “we’re not ready to share all the information yet.”

Calendar Approved, Sharing Report, Information Meeting Planned

In an action related to the sharing of programs and services with the Rainier School District, in order to expand educational opportunities for students, the board unanimously approved a calendar for the 2011-12 school year.

Instead of weekly Wednesday early release of students to allow for staff development time, 17 “late start” Wednesdays are planned during the year. That is a compromise to align with Rainier’s schedule – something that is needed sharing concept of allowing students to take some of their classes at either district in order to offer more elective and advanced courses.

The calendar would see school starting on Sept. 6, a teacher in-service day on Oct. 14, winter break that begins on Dec. 19 with school resuming on Tuesday, Jan. 3, spring vacation March 26-30, graduation on June 9, and the last day of school for other students on Friday, June 15 – a half-day.

Also related to the plans for sharing programs and services with Rainier, Moravec and Haas reported on a joint committee meeting held April 19.

“It went very well,” Moravec said. “There’s been a lot of progress made, they’ve done a lot of preliminary work.” He added that there are details that “need to be solved.” He thanked Serra, CMHS Principal Jeff Baughman, Vice Principal Annikke Olson and the counselors for their work on the plan.

Haas agreed with Moravec’s statements and stated his believe that sharing services will be “a benefit to the students of both districts.”

Baughman announced that he had scheduled an informational meeting for parents and students regarding the sharing proposals on Thursday, April 28, at 6 p.m. in the CMHS auditorium.

Policy Changes

The board unanimously passed a motion to make a wording change to the district’s policy on “Threats of Violence” as called for in recent negotiations with the Clatskanie Education Association (CEA).

The policy now reads that the building principal “shall” provide information to teachers regarding threats of violence “in connection with a health and safety emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals.”

The board also reviewed the district’s policy on animals in district facilities.

After hearing a report from Baughman and Olson indicating that people were increasingly bringing dogs inside the school building and onto the grounds – and not always cleaning up after them – the board agreed to consider some revisions to the policy.

Teacher Appreciation Week

After hearing a resolution read by board chair Janet Willey, the board unanimously adopted the resolution proclaiming May 2-6 as “Teacher Appreciation Week” and encouraging all members of the community to
join in this observance, recognizing the dedication and hard work of these individuals.”

Employee Changes

As part of the consent agenda, the board approved the hiring of Neva Lenk as a half-time temporary Title I reading teacher at CES through the end of the school year. It was noted that the federal funding for the position would be lost if it wasn’t filled.

The board also approved a one year leave of absence for CES sixth grade teacher Dawn Warren, and a reduction in force (RIF) notice for Mark Torkelson, full-time teacher at CMHS.

It was noted that with Warren’s leave of absence and other teachers voluntarily leaving the district, the 6.5 FTE reduction in teaching positions called for in the preliminary budget would be met with Torkelson’s RIF. The law requires that RIF notices be given at this time if the possibility exists that a teacher might lose his/her job through a budget-caused reduction in force.

If the local option levy passes in the May 17th election that RIF would not be necessary.

ASB Report, Good News

Newly-elected CMHS associated student body (ASB) president Marilyn Pikovsky introduced herself to the board.

The other new ASB officers for the 2011-12 school year include: Kenzie Garlock, vice president; Tiffany Ryan, secretary; Hunter Spendlove, treasurer; Allison Longero, spirit coordinator, and Kaitlyn Carson, public relations officer.

Marilyn reported on the various activities to raise funds for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Next week, 25 leadership students will be attending the Oregon Association of Student Councils (OASC) spring conference. CMHS ASB advisor Karen Slotten will be retiring from the state OASC board on which she has served for the past three years.

Baughman reported on the recent academic celebration night at CMHS. He thanked the staff and the Clatskanie Masonic Lodge for their support and participation, and the drama students for putting on one-act plays.

Seventy-three percent of middle school language arts students of Nina True and Richard McNicholas have met or exceeded the Ore-gon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) reading test.

CMHS had two finishers at the recent math competition at Clatsop Community College, Baughman reported.

Olson noted that Clatskanie is now ranked 11th (up from 30th last year) in The Oregonian’s school ranking system that reflects academics, athletics and other areas of achievement.

Clatskanie athletes continue to rank high in the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) compilations of sport teams grade point averages.

“We have awesome athletes who are doing a lot of great things in the classroom as well,” said Olson.

Drug Turn-in Event Set Saturday

Drug turn-in events will be held this Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Clatskanie Police Departent, 195 SE 2nd Street, and the Vernonia Police Department, 1001 Bridge Street.

The Clatskanie Police Department and the Clatskanie Weed and Seed Steering Committee are sponsoring the Clatskanie event, with participation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, which is also involved in the Vernonia event.

The April 30th events are part of the second National Take Back Day sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Last fall, the Clatskanie Police Department participated along with approximately 4,000 other state and local agencies in the first nationwide drug take-back effort. More than 120 tons of drugs were turned in nationwide.

Anyone with expired or unwanted prescription medications, unneeded over-the counter medicines, pet medications, medicine from deceased family members, unknown tablets and capsules, etc. are encouraged to bring them to the police stations during the “no questions asked” event Saturday.

If possible, it is asked that all medicines be left in their original containers. No thermometers, needles or medical waste of any kind will be accepted.

Anyone wanting to drop off unwanted medication is asked to remove or black out all personal information from the original container.

“The epidemic of prescription drug abuse continues to plague Oregon as we now lead the nation in painkiller abuse among 18 to 25 year olds and we’re ranked fifth overall in painkiller abuse among all age groups,” said a spokesperson for the Clatskanie Weed and Seed Steering Committee.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death rates from prescription painkiller overdoses is nearly identical for rural and urban Americans – 7.8 deaths per 100,000 population in rural areas and 7.9 deaths per 100,000 in urban areas.

Children Race to Collect Eggs

RACING FROM THE SIDELINE OF THE CLATSKANIE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FIELD, children ran to collect Easter eggs at the annual event sponsored by the Clatskanie Kiwanis Club Saturday. Chief Photo by Annie Hulegaard

Highway 30 Work Tangles Traffic

WORKING 12-HOUR SHIFTS with single lane closures, Oregon Mainline Paving, the contractor for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Highway 30 project through Clatskanie, was busy last week excavating in order to widen the highway on the east end of town. This week crews are begining to place rock and will start  to build new road base in order to widen the highway enough to add a left turn lane on the section between the Clatskanie River bridge and Van Street.

Flaggers have been slowing traffic for five to 10 minutes to allow for the work. That will continue for the next couple of weeks, according to ODOT spokesperson Kimberly Dinwiddie. She told The Chief that the contractor had chosen to work longer hours during the day in order to “streamline the widening process.” By doing so, it is expected that portion of the work will be done in three to four weeks  rather than eight weeks, thus getting it done before the summer travel season.

Dinwiddie emphasized that there will be no delays for emergency vehicles.

While acknowledging that there has been disruption to business accesses, Dinwiddie asked that drivers “work together” with the flaggers to keep them open.

City of Clatskanie manager Greg Hinkelman confirmed that the highway contractor had broken a 12-inch city sewer main at the intersection of Bryant Street and Highway 30 Thursday morning, April 14.

The break was immediately bypassed, and a small amount of contaminated dirt was removed. “It was a simple break with a simple fix,” Hinkelman said. The repair was completed Thursday with the contractor bearing the responsibility for the cost.

The contractor was working at the same location this week installing new storm drains under the highway.

At the April 20th city council meeting, Hinkelman said that residents of the Swedetown Village Mobile Home Park had raised concerns regarding moving dirt that is being dug out from alongside the highway to the Rathbone property adjacent to the mobile home park.

Dinwiddie told The Chief that the “off-site storage of material” was the responsibility of the contractor. “ODOT makes sure the contractor has the appropriate permits and that’s as far as our involvement goes,” the ODOT spokesperson said. “The rest is between the city and the contractor.”

Hinkelman said that while the contractor had received a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit for putting excavated material on the field, a fill permit from the city was not obtained.

That issue was to be on the agenda of the Clatskanie planning commission Wednesday, April 27, at 7 p.m. at the Clatskanie city hall. Chief Photo by Deborah Steele Hazen

Raymond Carver Writing Festival Features Movie Night, Poetry Slam this Weekend

Clatskanie Friends of the Library will celebrate this community’s connection to world famous poet and short story writer Raymond Carver this weekend with a movie night on Friday, April 29, and a “poetry slam” on Saturday, April 30.

Both events, part of the fifth annual Raymond Carver Writing Festival (RCWF) will be held at The Blue Nutria, 80 Steele Street, behind the Clatskanie Library.

A screen version of  Carver’s short story “So Much Water So Close to Home,” entitled “Jindabyne” will be shown at 8:30 p.m., at The Blue Nutria. Pizza will be provided by Fultano’s Pizza.

Premiering at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, “Jindabyne,” is an Australian drama directed by Ray Lawrence and stars Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne. There are only a handful of Carver- inspired films and this one ranks at the top along with Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” that was featured at last year’s RCWF, according to festival organizers.

“Carver is often referred to as a minimalist poet and writer in the literary world. However some would argue that he is no more of a minimalist than Chekhov, the writer he is most often likened to. In fact some of his later stories, like ‘Blackbird Pie,’ are almost lush in texture,” says RCWF coordinator Ernest Carman. Carver is also often compared to Ernest Hemingway because of his simplicity and clarity of language, precise descriptions, and use of dialogue to evoke complicated emotional situations.

Carver is credited as being a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s. His reputation as a blue-collar poet continued to grow after his death resulting from lung cancer at the age of 50 in 1988.

Poetry Slam Saturday

An adult poetry slam open-mic competition is slated for Saturday, April 30, from 3-10 p.m. (or later), at The Blue Nutria.

“This gives adult poets a chance to enter the arena of the competitive art of performance poetry,” says RCWF poetry slam organizer John Lillich. The event is designed for adult poets, aged 18 and older, with all comers welcome.

“As ammunition for the contest, participants should bring five to six of their original poems to share during the audience-judged gathering,” says Lillich.  The competition allows three minute intervals with a 10 second grace period for the reading of each piece starting at 3 p.m.

A catered buffet by Hump’s Restaurant will be served during an intermission at 5:30 p.m. interspersed with a musical interlude featuring guitarist Joe Taffe of Clatskanie.  During this break Jeff and Paulette Rees-Denis, owners of the Cultivator General Store on 302 N. Nehalem Street in downtown Clatskanie, invite participants to stop by and visit their establishment.

There will be a “cake break” at 8:30 p.m. hosted by Clatskanie Library director Elizabeth Kruse honoring the memory of the festival’s namesake, who was born in Clatskanie on May 25, 1938.

The last portion of the poetry slam will see the final scoring of the entrants and the presentation of awards.  First prize takes $100, second prize is $50, and third prize offers $25.  Additional honorable mentions will be offered at the discretion of the judges.

Participating poets retain all rights to their work shared during this event that uses a one to 10 point card scoring system. The key rule in “slam” is that judges are the audience, and the scores they give determine who advances.

“This competition generally follows the rules adhered to by the National Poetry Slam that  hosts events similar to ours nationwide each year that are typically organized by poets interested in the advancement of poetry in their communities,” notes Carman.

“April was inaugurated as National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.  Since then a variety of government agencies and officials, educational leaders, publishers, poets, and arts organizations have embraced this concept that offers a vehicle for the enhancement of writing skills across our nation,” says Carman.

Entries in a student poetry contest, held in conjunction with the RCWF, are due Monday, May 2. (See the separate story on page 4.)

Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl launched the first RCWF event on May 25, 2007 when she formally declared that day as “Raymond Carver Day” in an edict approved by the city council. The proclamation ceremony was held in the Clatskanie Library Mini Park, across the street from the library, around the newly installed Raymond Carver Memorial created by local sculpting artist Bob Davis.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Clatskanie Library with funding support from the Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) through a grant administered by the Columbia County Cultural Coalition (CCCC), this free event offers poets a venue to advance in their writing skills while networking with their peers.

Poets and poetry aficionados interested in participating are encouraged to call the Clatskanie Library at 503 728-3732 or go online at for additional information.

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